Issues from 2009
2013, 2014 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #33December 31, 2009
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In the Age of Iron and Ashes

The girl did not answer for a while; for so long, in fact, that Yudhyana had started to move back towards the camp. When she spoke, her voice stopped him, as surely as a knife drawn across his throat. “Everything lives and dies,” she whispered. “Everything changes, and all changes end in death.”

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

On the Transmontane Run with the Aerial Mail Express

Willow kicked the pedal and steered to a tree leaning over the lake. Giff squealed, confused that she wasn't at the mast. Susie hopped, wanting to explore. In the scramble to disembark, unbalanced by the cargo-bag, Willow lost her footing and hung over the black water. Giff caught her jacket and swung her to the bank. Her legs trembled, or it might have been the quaking ground.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Woman and the Mountain
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The mountain was listening very closely, watching the wind blow faint tendrils of her hair, catching the warmth of her breath.
Issue #32December 17, 2009
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High Moon

We staggered on, Danny’s outstretched arms lapped over mine for support. After another hour the clotted blood around his mouth was crusted black. “Sun," he said. "Sky. Time. No time for us. Once there was, long ago. We hunted together, remember? Now all those memories are breaking like clouds across my eyes. Letting me see farther than ever before.”

My Sister’s Soul

She looked dead, as well she would be if she were anything else. Only a powerful magus could live without a soul. But even Khatereh needed the touch of her soul once in awhile; on midsummer day, as was her personal tradition, she would let it rest within her and be renewed. With her soul inside her body, she would be as vibrant and beautiful as a twenty-two year-old sister ought to be, and when it was removed she would look healthy again, for a while.

 

Issue #31December 03, 2009
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Child of Sunlight, Woman of Blood

"Every day they march to feed my glory," said Yan to me. "They hate it--still they come. Oh, your people are equal enough now. Junglefolk, plainsfolk--they all mingle together, dally in the sheets and knife each other for coin. And every day they make sacrifice. Blood I get. Toes, ears, fingers. Lives. And all willing... so to speak."

Kraken’s Honor

The kraken watched us from the safety of a four-fathom gap, craning its horned head back and forth. It seemed content to wait; already the sea had claimed the remains of the Ice Queen. We, however, would freeze to death before the creature ran out of patience.

Issue #30November 19, 2009
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The Manufactory

Harvesting the bodies meant taking a few risks, but it was easy enough for a steady man who did his research and kept himself sober, and anatomists always needed fresh bodies to dissect. And if we dug up a not-so-fresh body, well, wigmakers and dentists pay well for human hair and teeth. We’d lived well back then, Bet and me, and we’d planned to give our baby girl everything she wanted. But then the Anatomy Act passed and the demand for bodies plummeted.

The Book Thief

I’d almost managed to relax when I smelled the perfume. It clung to the blankets. A cheap floral scent. Violets maybe. I kicked the blankets off, but I could still smell it. I’d had a woman here. Probably a woman I had paid. A whore. And I couldn’t remember that?

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Great, Golden Wings
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 19:36 — 13.46MB)
Lady Percivalia sat motionless for as long as she could so that she could savor the thrill.
Issue #29November 05, 2009
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The Woman and the Mountain

The mountain would not watch her without replying, for such was too close to deceit. But before he turned his thoughts away from the valley and the woman standing in it, he saw once more her face, her eyes that had glittered moments ago with threatening tears. He felt the shapes of her feet, pressing into the soil. Then he looked instead to desolate ridges of stone and silent peaks, but the image of her remained.

The Silver Khan

I was fascinated by the statues in the Khan’s gardens. They were all of men, clearly warriors, dressed in a strange armor. One night in the gardens I met an artist who sketched the statues in secret. He showed me his portfolio, which contained drawings of the face of a certain statue he had sketched night after night for years. “He is speaking,” the artist said. “See the movement of the lips and the line of the jaw. I do not know what he says, but he is forming words over the months and years.”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Six Seeds
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 28:42 — 19.71MB)
Dollies were the chore of my life: winding them, mending gears, and keeping good care of their pricier parts which pleasured the men.
Issue #28October 22, 2009
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Great, Golden Wings

If Lady Percivalia loved the cinematographist in her chaste wayand she thought despite all propriety that the rising, fluttering, tremulous sensation she felt when she looked at him might be a kind of lovethen she loved him because he had brought her the shapes and shadows of creatures that dwelled outside the confines of her life.

"a lovely little story"  —Rich Horton

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

To Kiss the Granite Choir, Pt. II

A heavy pressure struck Imre about the head—the air itself drumming his ears—even as his blade impossibly passed through Ariosa’s shape without slowing. No impact. No blood. Instead she blurred and before his eyes faded into the air, a ghostly mist. He swore as he caught his footing, just an instant before Ariosa reappeared with a hammer-fisted blow that jarred Imre to the spleen. Vesti met hymn with a crack and Imre’s battle-scarred blade exploded in a cloud of black and copper pieces.

"a richly fantastic setting, a work of high creativity. Fantasy action at its best.  Recommended."  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

One of the Ten Best Fantasy Stories of 2009  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Pirate Captain’s Daughter
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:18 — 18.07MB)
Pirates of the highest tier raided poetry itself.
Issue #27, First Anniversary Double-IssueOctober 08, 2009
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The Pirate Captain’s Daughter

Pirates of the highest tier, the ones whose names and exploits were discussed avidly even in inland cities like those of conquering generals and master calligraphers, raided poetry itself. To understand her trade, a pirate must be a poet herself, and could not take a name until she had scribed a poem in the language of her sea-yearning soul.

"a delight to read"  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Finalist for the WSFA SMall Press Award, 2009

Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2009

Songdogs

She turned her back on him to reach for her pack, shielding her hands with her body so he wouldn’t see her fingers sketching the words of the attack spell that she mouthed under her breath. She licked her fingertips, holding the spell on the tip of her tongue, and turned round to face him while she dug in the pack for food. He opened his mouth. “Could...” was as far as he got.

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

Six Seeds

Of course, this was very nice for all the other women of the world, but not for me. For me, Dollies were the chore of my life: winding them, bathing them in oil, mending gears and joints, and keeping good care of their pricier parts which pleasured the men. I cannot say that I hated it, nor that I was fond of it, only that it was my task every single day to care for these immortal metal beauties.

To Kiss the Granite Choir, Pt. I

The gallery erupted with the roar of a thousand voices—laughter, questions, taunts pouring down in a torrent of Silici that would have put any market auction to shame. Living swords grown from the bones of dead men were shaken. The ground beneath Imre’s feet shook from the force of stone fists and sandaled feet pounding throughout the amphitheater. His head remained bowed.

"a richly fantastic setting, a work of high creativity. Fantasy action at its best.  Recommended."  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

One of the Ten Best Fantasy Stories of 2009  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Of Shifting Skin and Certainty
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:53 — 17.78MB)
“If it was the last skin you wore,” he said, “would you take it?”
Issue #26September 24, 2009
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The Mathematics of Faith

The final scenes leave me breathless. The priestess’s condition enters its final stages, and, though she hammers at the portals of her sealed chambers, no-one comes to her aid. The artist responsible for the narrative cuts his scenes faster and faster, becoming more and more metaphorical. We see her eyes tighten in pain; a shot of the two birds, both young and old, silhouetted against a gas flame; the woman’s hand clenching her bed sheets; the gas flame flickers; the woman’s hand relaxes; the young canary sitting alone on its perch, its older companion nowhere in sight.

Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2009

Of Shifting Skin and Certainty

Such is our addiction. Living formless is its own refuge—our skin- shifting a means of escape, to always have a new identity waiting in the tank for when the one we wear becomes overly tiresome and persistent. But the King no longer wearies of change, and has but one face now to show the world. And though it resembles candle wax, it remains. “That is my difference,” he says.

"A short tale of identity and self in an imaginative setting."  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Alchemist’s Feather
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 36:23 — 24.98MB)
I wake to find another finger gone.
Issue #25September 10, 2009
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The Alchemist’s Feather

“A splinter.” Maria holds it out to show me. I make a motion to take it from her with my remaining whole hand, and she nods. The splinter is long enough to be one of my absent fingers, and it takes two tries to pull it free. A drop of blood wells up in its path. “My mother used to kiss my cuts.” She stares at her own blood idly, remembering home or food or what I do not know.

The Puzzle Box

“You?” I stood, furious, and as I did the red brazier-light glinted on something behind the throne that I could not see. “Did you not have enough of father’s blessings while he lived? He gave you gifts, and horses, and talked of the great kingdom you would inherit. Meanwhile I sat in your shadow and the heap of your scorn. No, brother. For this once I will have something that you have not had first.”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Father’s Kill
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I lock both Father and the night away.